This category contains the intention-setting ideas from the monthly newsletter.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Leaning In

‘Tis the Season!

Although the great marketers of the world want us to believe this is the season of peace, December brings mixed emotions and feelings for most of us and this year continues in that same tradition.  Due to the pandemic, we yearn for a deeper connection with our loved ones more than ever, yet reality often brings unexpected results.  So my offering this month includes a focus on self, through small steps you might take to bring yourself some INNER peace (which, in a round about way, invites OUTER peace).

The steps listed below are ones I have actually taken myself over the years to invite more inner peace into my human beingness, so I hope you will l consider trying one yourself.  I am wishing much inner peace to all this holiday season!

  1. Set Limits.  I would find myself over committed and over extended each year, as my people pleasing part went into overdrive!  So, I began to slowly say “No” to things that did not bring me absolute joy or that had the taste of obligation associated with it.  I also began to set time limits on social gatherings so I could build more down time into my schedule.  Those time limits applied both to myself and to others.  I’ll admit the first couple of times I set such limits was awkward and uncomfortable, yet I was surprised at how quickly I felt relief, more freedom and a greater sense of peace.  Consider setting one limit this season, sit back and observe what happens!
  2. Slow down. This concept was a really hard one for me to embrace.  I rushed around everywhere, even finding myself running down the halls at work, just so I might fit in just one more thing in my day.  It was exhausting!  I believed I was great at multi-tasking.  I have to thank my yoga practice on the mat for helping me to down-shift and it didn’t happen right away.  But with practice, I did finally shift my perspective to ‘One thing at a time’ and brought myself much inner peace.  Now, although I always recommend trying it, yoga is not the only path to slowing down.  It might be making a commitment to spending more time in nature or reducing your “To Do” list by one each week, until you only have 3 items on it per day (with one of them being some form of self-care!).  Perhaps you consider the idea of “being” as productive as “doing”, because being present, being intentional, and being attentive are some of the best gifts you can give yourself and others!  Perhaps sitting with some aspect of yourself that invites the perfectionist and inner critic out and, instead, get curious about that part of you that you have been judging and write down how it has served you.  See if you can identify at least 3 ways it has served you and then check in with how you might now feel about it.
  3. Judge Yourself Less.  The perfectionist inside partners with the inner critic believing that judgment will motivate us to do better, be better.  Unfortunately, overtime, when we strive for perfection, which is an unattainable goal, we are setting ourselves up for failure.  The inevitable failure to attain perfection perpetuates the vicious cycle, adding fuel to the inner conflict.  To truly lean into inner peace, we need to accept ourselves as limited and flawed human beings, with gifts, strengths and weaknesses.  It is the combination of our gifts, strengths and weaknesses that make us unique in this world.  The journey of accepting that we are perfectly imperfect beings is the path to true inner peace. Perhaps identify an aspect of yourself that invites the perfectionist and inner critic to come out and sit with it in a space of curiosity.  See if you can write down 3 ways it has served you.  Afterwards, check in and notice if judgment has shifted in some way.
  4. Judge Others Less.  It is human to compare ourselves to others, yet making a judgment about those differences is something that is learned.  That’s the good news – because it can then be unlearned with awareness and understanding.  When I would catch myself judging others, I would try to stop and imagine that I had gotten it totally wrong in the moment, that what I was experiencing was a complete misunderstanding.  The hardest part was catching myself in that judgment of others.  When I could slow my mind down and create some space for understanding, I was then able to lean into the space of accepting that everyone is doing their best with what they know.  Culturally, we are groomed to be judgmental, yet I ask ‘When has judgment brought you inner peace?’  Perhaps consider writing down one judgment you tend to make of others and explore the roots of this judgment.  Who passed this judgment to you, when do you find yourself most judging of this aspect of others, where does this judgment come up most frequently, and why do you believe you make this judgment.  Again, sense into any shift in those judgments after spending some time with it.
  5. Shift Perspective.  As I mentioned above, our perfectionist sets us up for failure, encouraging us to reach for the impossible.  When we fail, we might begin to think to ourselves “Why is this happening to me?”  It wasn’t until I began to create space for myself (see above) that I was able to shift the perspective to “Why is it happening for me?’ instead.  Every failure brings with it a lesson and an opportunity.  It is sitting in those uncomfortable spaces, looking for the lesson and opportunity, that opens the door to acceptance of ourselves in those moments, encouraging us to realign with our authentic selves, and to take our next steps forward from that place of acceptance.  When we can begin to make this shift in perspective, we begin to see our failures simply as the universe guiding us towards our true purpose, instead of believing there must be something wrong with us.  Consider identifying a past failure and exploring what might have grown from that space.  Perhaps you gained new clarity on what brings you joy or you decided to take a class to learn a new skill or it brought a deeper understanding of why it wasn’t sustainable in the long run.  When you reflect on the new areas of growth that emerged, sense into any felt shifts from the change in perspective time provides.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Open Your Heart

The Attitude of Gratitude:  November is National Gratitude Month!

I love the fact that November has been designated as National Gratitude Month, giving the practice of gratitude the attention it deserves!

I have amped up my practice of gratitude this year as a way to keep my heart open.  I could feel myself pulling back and away, closing off my heart, because of the fear and restrictions that come with the pandemic.

To keep the fires burning to warm your heart, below I have offered some simple practices you might explore to celebrate this month and kick start your own gratitude practices.

  1. Say Thank You!  As we grew up, somewhere along the line, we were told to say “Please” and “Thank You” to others that do something kind for us to be polite.  Maybe our ancestors instinctively sensed that the act of saying “Thank You” had a more profound purpose.  My suggestion for consideration is to delve a bit deeper into the act of expressing this form of appreciation to another by bringing more awareness to this expression, being more conscious in our choice of when, how and to whom we express it.  For example, instead of simply saying “Thank You’ to someone that holds the door open for you as you enter a store, you might slow down and say “Thank you for being so kind and considerate to take the time to hold the door for me today.  I truly appreciate it”.  And then watch, listen and sense into the response!  And, if you are feeling even more adventurous, you might try it with a dear friend or family member.  Set an intention in the morning to catch a loved one “doing something good” and when you do observe them in the act, stop and thank them for what they did.
  2. Focus on the Positive.  Even when things in our life don’t go as planned, if you take some time to sit with the experience, you will be able to discover a unexpected benefit of the change in plans.  By doing so does not necessarily diminish the immediate impact of the sadness or disappointment; however, searching and finding the silver lining and appreciating the benefit has the amazing power of shifting us into an experience of more positive energy, creating space for a more balanced, equilibrated perspective and sense of being.  Consider trying it out today!
  3. Create kindness.  Here’s a fun idea you can do as a craft with friends and family and then share with anyone and everyone.  Collect a bunch of rocks and write something kind on each one.  Then go around your neighborhood or office park and place them where they can be easily found. To read more about this movement started by Megan Murphy, check out this website:  https://www.thekindnessrocksproject.com.  Trust that your message will find the right person at just the right time to change their life!  After you have placed your rock messages around, take some time to sit with yourself and reflect on how the experience in your heart has expressed itself.
  4. Honor our Service Members.  Feeling like you might want to stretch yourself a bit this month and go beyond our borders?  Perhaps consider writing a ‘thank you’ note or letter to a Service member.  Our Active Duty Service members are dedicated to making a difference in our lives without even knowing us.  And, although they may not admit it to many, combat is a scary place, even more so without the comforts of home for some solace.  Receiving an unexpected thank you from a stranger, acknowledging their contributions and sacrifice, might just fan their internal flame of dedication and validate their motivation to serve and protect our freedoms.  Check out Operation Gratitude to learn more about sharing your appreciation with the troops and cracking your own heart wide open!
  5. Write a letter to yourself!  Or maybe this month you are feeling a bit more reflective and sensing your heart needs a more intimate approach to cultivating gratitude.  Then may I recommend writing a ‘thank you’ letter to yourself.  The ultimate practice of kindness might be to express kindness to yourself.  See if you can identify at least 10 aspects that you love about yourself.  Maybe ask someone you care about deeply to do this practice with you and consider sharing what you come up with by saying them out loud to each other.  Again, sit a few moments afterwards to sense into the experience, especially noting the sensations around the heart.  I would love to hear about your observations!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Mental Health

October is Depression and Mental Health Screening Month!

One of the many silver linings of this pandemic has been an increased awareness around mental health.  It has been a long-held belief of mine that if we spent more time, energy and money on supporting mental health, we would radically improve our health care system by significantly reducing what ails us physically.  It does not surprise me that the number one cause of morbidity and mortality is heart disease, which stems from a traumatizing world guiding us to disconnect from the pain and harden our hearts.

So to build upon this growing awareness and to continue to reduce the stigma around mental health challenges, below I provide intention-setting ideas to support compassion and connection, two of the most powerful tools for resiliency.  It is my hope you will consider exploring and then sharing one as we honor Mental Illness Awareness Week the first full week of October!

  1. Take a Stigma Quiz.  Visit the National Association of Mental Illness’s website here to get a better sense of your own personal understanding and beliefs around mental health challenges.  Consider taking this quiz as a simple first step.
  2. Pledge to be Stigma Free. To keep current on mental health, perhaps visit NAMI’s website here to add your name to their StigmaFree campaign to support turning StigmaFree Me into StigmaFree We!
  3. Ok2Talk.org.  Research has shown that sharing what is going on in our minds that we find challenging to us helps reduce its power over us.  Sharing does not necessarily mean talking to another person directly, although that is one option.  NAMI has created this website for people to post their personal stories anonymously.  Perhaps consider checking it out and either posting your own Blog or sharing the site with someone you know that might benefit from such an outlet.
  4. Stretch your Altruistic Muscle.  Research has shown that doing good can do us good.  The benefits include inviting in a sense of belonging, reducing isolation and learning about different perspectives.  Consider visiting the Mental Health Foundation website here for more information and some thoughts about getting started.
  5. Compassionate Conversations Matter.  Connecting with others through conversation is a strategic tool for coping, especially when challenged with powerful feelings that bring about self-defeating thoughts and self-sabotaging behaviors.  If you don’t know where to start, perhaps visit the CDC’s website here to find resources on how to get the conversation started.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Help Save Lives

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Suicide is not an easy topic to talk about and yet that is exactly what is needed in order to reduce the growing rate of this tragedy.  Conversations can make a difference when someone is thinking about suicide.

Did you know that suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, that, according to the CDC, suicide rates have increased by more than 30% in half of the states since 1999, and that the youngest person to kill themselves was only 6 years old?

Many of us will notice changes in people around us and get the feeling that “something is not right”. You may not want to say anything for fear you won’t know what to say if they confirm your concerns. While these conversations can be very difficult and confronting, just one conversation can save someone’s life by preventing suicide.

You may not be sure what to do to help, whether you should take talk of suicide seriously, or if your intervention might make the situation worse. Taking action is always the best choice. Here’s what you need to know to start saving lives today:

  1. Know – and look – for the warning signs.  There are several warning signs of suicidal thoughts that you may hear or see, such as:  1)  Seemingly harmless comments such as “I wish I was never born”, “I wish I wasn’t here” and/or “I wish I was dead”; 2) Withdrawing from friends and family and/or wanting to be left alone; 3) Having dramatic mood swings; 4) Impulsive, aggressive and/or reckless behavior; 5) Obsessed with death, dying or violence; and 6) Increasing use of drugs or alcohol.  Additional warning signs that the person’s thoughts may be moving toward putting a plan into action include:  1) Giving away their possessions or getting their affairs in order when there is no other explanation for doing this; 2) Saying goodbye to friends and family as if they are not going to see them again; 3) Their mood shifts from a sense of despair to calm; and 4) Taking action to secure the tools needed to complete suicide, such as buying a gun or stockpiling prescription medications.  Take any and all signs of suicide seriously.  If someone tells you they are thinking of harming themselves or behaves in a way that suggests they may be thinking of suicide, don’t dismiss or ignore the situation as many people who have killed themselves had expressed the intention at some point.
  2. Know the risk factors.  According to NAMI, the following are risk factors for suicide:  1) Previous suicide in the family; 2) Personal history of trauma or abuse; 3) Prolonged stress; 4) Agitation and reduced sleep; 5) A recent loss or tragedy; 6) Isolation; 7) Substance use and intoxication; 8) A serious or chronic mental illness; 9) Access to firearms; 10) Gender (men are 4 times more likely to die from their attempt) and 11) Age (under 24 and over 65 are at a higher risk).
  3. Ask questions!  If you sense something is not right and you have noticed some of the warning signs, connect with the person by asking them some questions.  Be sensitive and direct and ask some of the following:  1) How are you managing with what is going on in your life?; 2) Do you ever feel like just giving up?; 3) Are you thinking about hurting yourself?; 4) Have you ever thought about suicide, or tried to harm yourself, before?.  If they tell you that they have or are currently having suicidal thoughts, continue to ask the following questions: 1) Have you thought about how and when you would do it? and 2) Do you currently have access to the weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?  Please know that asking someone if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings won’t push that person into doing something self-destructive. In fact, connecting with someone by starting the conversation and creating space for them to talk about their feelings may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings.
  4. Know what to do.  If you become concerned that your friend or loved one may attempt suicide:  1) Stay calm (don’t fidget or pace) and don’t leave the person alone; 2) Ask what you can do to help, including “Can I help you call your therapist or psychiatrist?”; 3) If they ask for something, give it to them as long as the request is safe and reasonable; 4)  Don’t argue, threaten, or raise your voice, especially if they are experiencing hallucinations or delusions, instead be gentle and compassionate; 5) Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong; 6) Seek support by telling another family member or friend what is going on, by getting help from a trained professional, and/or encouraging them to call a suicide hotline number (i.e., in the U.S., National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)).  Even if your friend or loved one may not be in crisis, it is important to still offer and provide support.  Let them know you are open to talking about what is on their mind.  When listening, demonstrate you are actively engaged in the conversation by providing positive reinforcement, reflecting their feelings and summarizing their thoughts.  Actively listening can help your loved one feel heard and validated.  Reassure your friend or loved one that you care and are concerned for their well-being and that they can lean on you for support.  If your friend or loved one has attempted suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately or take them to nearest emergency room if you believe you can do so safely.  Try to determine if they have taken drugs or alcohol, whether they are under the influence or may have taken an overdose.  As soon as possible, tell a family member or a friend what is going on for additional support as you don’t need to try to handle the situation alone.
  5. Do more.  Start a dialogue now.  Consider watching “13 Reasons Why” and ask others if they have seen it, what they thought about it, and when (i.e., at what age) they might consider it appropriate to have a proactive conversation with their own children on the subject.  Consider helping out at a crisis center or volunteer with an organization that makes house calls to isolated individuals, such as single, house-bound seniors, such a Meals on Wheels.  Share images and graphics on social media to promote awareness and reduce stigma.  Remember that your engagement might just might help prevent suicide by letting others know that there are people that care and that there are other options available!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Your Overall Wellness

National Wellness Month!

August has most of us experiencing “the heat” of summer, which makes us humans a little edgier and more prone to irritability, even more so during a pandemic that just won’t go away!  Heat, of all kinds, makes us uncomfortable.  Physical heat has been shown to elevate levels of cortisol in our bodies.  So what might we “do” to make ourselves more comfortable this summer – and perhaps for a lifetime?

National Wellness Month encourages us to focus on our self-care. When we do so, we are actively participating in reducing our stress and keeping us aligned with our authentic self, the one that reflects your inner strength through vulnerability and open-heartedness.  Unfortunately, many of us have been told that self-care is selfish, so we put ourselves last on our list of responsibilities.  When we don’t prioritize our self-care, we disconnect from our authentic self and expose ourselves to toxic stress, making us uncomfortable in our own skins.

To honor August as National Wellness Month, below are intention-setting ideas for you to consider that might support your level of comfort in your own skin, even in the heat, by reinforcing the connection to your authentic self:

  1. Find Your Passion.  Many of us might ask, how do I recognize my authentic self?  Well, a simple place to start is to identify what energizes you.  We engage in a lot of activities, by ourselves and with others, but don’t check-in with ourselves afterwards.  So perhaps taking some time to simply sit with yourself and check-in with your energy level after “doing” something.  Each time you do so, you will begin to identify activities and people that either leave you feeling “up” or “down”.   Consider starting two lists – one to track the uplifting and one for the draining.  Once you have identified several uplifting, energizing activities, perhaps see if you might find a common thread between them.
  2. Find Your Tribe.  I read once that the only difference between ‘illness’ and ‘wellness’ is moving from ‘I’ to ‘We’. To stay connected to your authentic self it is important to build your social support system.  Once we better understood that humans are wired for connection, the culture of independence has been questioned.  We are an interdependent species, so consider taking inventory of your social circle and put a plan in place to surround yourself with supportive people who energize you by encouraging your authentic self to shine. Perhaps find a group to join that represents your core values or set healthy boundaries around how much time and attention you give people who are naysayers.
  3. Find Your Peace.  Our culture of striving – to do more, for perfection, to be accepted – keeps us in a place of unease and disconnected from our authentic self.  Accepting our limitations as the flawed human beings we are is a starting point for attaining more inner peace.  Consider giving yourself more patience and compassion, acting like you are your best friend, talking to yourself like you are talking to your best friend.  Try it for day and check in.  Then perhaps try it for week and check in again.  Take note of what holds you back from being your own best friend.
  4. Find Your Flow. What are some simple daily self-care activities you can add to your schedule?  Perhaps it is drinking more water or making sure to eat breakfast.  Maybe it is to do a 10 minute yoga or meditation practice in the morning.  Consider keeping it real simple and adding just one practice to your day to start.  Check in.  If you are feeling more in the flow and more connected to your authentic self in those moments, consider adding another one the following week.  Take it slow and don’t forget to give yourself patience and compassion during the exploration.
  5. Find Your Purpose.  When we are able to challenge the belief that self-care is selfish, we can begin to hear our supportive inner voice guiding us forward.  Often times it is our inner critic that is so loud we can’t hear our authentic self speaking in our ear.  Creating those self-care opportunities allows for our supportive inner voice to be heard.  We need opportunities to hear that voice to identify what motivates us from the inside, those desires that reside in our hearts.  If you considered Find Your Passion above, perhaps you were able to identify a common thread in those activities and people that energize you.  Your heart’s desire is what it longs for most for you in this world.  When we can align our decisions and actions with our heart’s dream for us, we can find our purpose for getting up each morning and doing what it takes to stay connected to our authentic self.  Once aligned and connected, wellness is found in abundance all around us!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Celebrate Our Differences

July is Disability Pride Month!

President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990.  This law is one of those major milestones in our history as it prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.  It is the official recognition that valuing and respecting each individual uniqueness is our collective strength.

In order to continue to raise the collective consciousness around diversity and inclusion, July presents an opportunity to continue the celebration coming off the heel’s of June’s LGBTQA+ Pride Month.  It is only when each of us can truly honor all differences as normal, natural and beautiful that the soil in which we grow becomes richer, where the seeds of acceptance, belonging, compassion and connection are able to blossom in all their glory.

Therefore, below are intention-setting ideas for you to consider as you reflect on your relationship with disabilities and how you might honor and contribute to the elevation of the collective consciousness:

  1. NOT ‘Special’ Needs.  All humans have basic needs, whether abled or disabled, so saying someone has “special” needs feels shaming, similar to the feeling that arises when suggesting someone is “needy”, like they are a burden.  To reduce stigmatization, consider embracing “disabled” or someone “having a disability” moving forward.
  2. A Different Perspective.  For those that travel to other parts of the country or world, reflect on why it is you enjoy travel so much.  For me, it is, in large part, the opportunity to experience a different culture that enriches my life with new perspectives or views of the world.  I learn so much in those moments.  Well, considering doing an “immersion” into a disability to learn how people with such a disability see and experience the world.  Not only might you learn something new, you might just find that you are forever changed!
  3. Awareness to Ableism.  By leaning into (and not away from) becoming more aware of the myriad of disabilities, it grows your own awareness of systemic ableism, which is simply the discrimination that people with disabilities experience.   Abled body-mind people take so much for granted, without much thought.  Consider trying an exercise, perhaps alone or with your family, where someone in the family selects a disability to experience for a few hours or even a day.  Afterwards, journal about what you experienced, including how it made you feel and share it with each other or someone else.
  4. Attend an Event.  Consider attending a Disability Pride event this month.  If you can’t find a local event, perhaps a parade, to participate in, virtual opportunities are available.  Increasing visibility by adding your able voice in the demand for equal access for all is mission critical.  Becoming more actively involved supports the growing counter-culture that respects and values the worth of all people equally.  Easterseals is hosting a virtual parade on July 26th to celebrate Disability Pride.
  5. Read Up on the Experience of Disability.  Perhaps the most energy and time you have at the moment is simply to read a book to expand your consciousness this month.  Consider Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century by Alice Wong.  Then perhaps recommend it to a friend or two!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support LGBTQ+ Communities

June is Pride Month!

This month we all have an opportunity to reflect on and perhaps learn more about the challenges endured by our LGBTQ+ communities and show our support.  To kick off this journey, perhaps start by reading the POTUS’ Proclamation on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month, 2021.

According to the American Psychiatric Association‘s Mental Health Disparities data:

  • LGBTQ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
  • LGBTQ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse compared with heterosexual individuals.
  • The rate of suicide attempts is four times greater for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and two times greater for questioning youth than that of heterosexual youth.
  • Transgender individuals who identify as African American/black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, or Multiracial/Mixed Race are at increased risk of suicide attempts than white transgender individuals.
How might we support these communities and more actively align with our Nation’s promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all.?  Below are some intention-setting ideas for your consideration:
  1. Act as a Scholar.  Educating ourselves is always a good first step when venturing into spaces of diversity.  And when interested in engaging in conversations, it is vital to understand any unique terminology that might impact our ability to effectively communicate.  If you don’t know where to start, The Trevor Project created an online glossary to help us out with the rapidly expanding terminology.  Consider taking a look at this glossary and perhaps sharing the link with others.
  2. Take and even deeper dive.  Perhaps consider watching a documentary or series that presents queer history and current struggles to connect to the LGBTQ+ community.  Below are a few suggestions:
    • Before Stonewall
    • Stonewall Uprising
    • Pride Docuseries
    • Disclosure
    • Tongues Untied
  3. Display a Pride Flag It not just the rainbow anymore.  There are a multitude of flags that can be flown in support of the LGBTQ+ community.  Not familiar with them?  No worries, this USA Today article will bring you up to speed.  After reading the article, perhaps intentionally buying one of choice and putting it out to increase visibility and build the momentum of this movement.
  4. Join a Pride March.  Consider participating in a Pride March this month as an opportunity to show support, to observe, listen and be educated.  You can do a simple Internet search to find one in your local area.  Perhaps invite a friend or two to go along with you!
  5. Be a Confidant.  As an Ally, when someone from the LBGTQ+ trusts you enough to have the courage to share a part of their story with you, listen with the sole/soul intention to understand.  Be curious and ask questions when someone describes an experience you have not had.  Don’t follow up with your own story that you think might be similar to try to demonstrate your understanding.  Instead, simply believe their story and thank them for sharing it with you!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Your Transition Back Out Into the World

As Mother Earth is re-emerging from her cold winter slumber, I too am beginning to explore how to reenter the world during this season.  I have found this process more challenging this year, due to so many unknowns.  Yes, we have learned a lot about Covid-19 over the past year, and yet there is still so much to learn.  And, although vaccinations are rolling out, we are learning that a booster shot will be needed before the end of the year and yearly vaccinations might be in our futures, like the annual flu shot.  The safety guidelines continue to evolve as do the variants of this virus!  So it is no wonder that many of us may be feeling some relief while also continuing to feel confused and anxious.

There is no ‘right’ way to navigate these unchartered waters as the storm is still brewing all around us.  Each of us must discern for ourselves and our families what is the best course to take based upon your tolerance for risk.  I sometimes think it might be compared with how you use money to build wealth.  Some of us with a low tolerance for risk (Me!), consider options such as stuffing our savings under our mattress, putting it into a savings account or perhaps investing it into low-risk bonds through a investment firm.  Others with a high tolerance for risk might consider investing in high-return stocks or even trying their luck at the casino!  There is certainly no one-size fits all when it comes to mapping out a course forward.

Therefore, below are intention-setting ideas for you to consider as you begin to explore the next part of your journey that might have you venturing out a bit further from your home this season:

  1. You’re not alone.  Sometimes we feel – or even believe – we are the only ones thinking and/or feeling this way.  Know that it is normal and natural to experience some level of fear when facing the unknown, as fear is protective.   What we don’t want is for fear to immobilize us, disconnecting us from our authentic self and the ones we love.  So, perhaps the first step on this journey of re-emerging is to simply remind ourselves that we are not alone in our hesitancy to take steps when it is uncertain where those steps might take us.
  2. Be gentle with yourself.  There is no need to force yourself into spaces that feel uncomfortable or beat yourself up if others appear to be moving forward with ease, yet you are finding yourself still holding back.  For those who know me, you have heard me say often, all in divine time.  Perhaps set an intention around an activity that you would like to participate in, yet are not sure if you are quite ready to venture into that place.  Spend some time visualizing yourself being engaged in the activity, seeing who will be there, and where it will occur.  Also consider exit strategies, ensuring you have options for extracting yourself should you decide to leave early if it does not unfold as anticipated.  Then, if you still decide to not join this time, remind yourself that if it is important to you, there will be a next time.
  3. Wade into the shallow end.  There is no requirement to jump into the deep end of the pool, returning to life as you knew it before the pandemic.  Start small and then check in with yourself.  Perhaps you haven’t eaten out at a restaurant since last March.  Instead of being seated inside, insist on a table outside and in the sunshine.  Instead of planning to meet several friends, invite one friend that may also be willing to explore the shallow end of the pool with you.  Discuss ways that you will behave to ensure your safety, such as how you will greet each other, bringing alcohol wipes to clean the silverware, glassware and your hands, and mask wearing.  Be sure to check in with yourself – mind and body – afterwards, to sense into what it was like for you to take this step.
  4. Identify new ways of being.  I know there are some ways of being that I am grateful will not be returning (at least for me), such as the handshake.  I also know there are some ways of being that I am grateful the pandemic has reinforced, such as hand washing and 6-foot personal space. Now is the time to discern new ways of being that feel integrated and supportive as we take those steps forward in our return to greater social connection with others.  So consider which behavioral changes might have been forced upon you in the past year, like wearing face masks, and decide which ones you might want to continue into the future, perhaps forever.  My plan is to wear face masks whenever I travel again, as it reduces the likelihood of me getting sick (no matter if it is from a head cold, flu or worse) period.
  5. Seek greater meaning.  Perhaps spends some time before venturing out to consider what you may have learned about yourself during this past year, “due to the pandemic”.  These four words have become the (perhaps dreaded) go-to excuse for why things have changed, so why not consider how this past year created change within you.  Perhaps it allowed you to accept your introverted part more or your ability to tolerate uncertainty grew stronger.  All of us have been changed in some way, now is the time to honor those changes.  As many of us lost loved ones, perhaps you embraced your resilient part that tapped into the collective belief that all is as it should be, it is not all bad or all good, that good things do come out of tragedy.  Perhaps spend some time out in Mother nature, being inspired by all of the changes around you this spring season, and write down at least one (but if more arise, don’t stop) area of your life where you experienced personal growth “due to the pandemic” that fills your heart with gratitude!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Cultivate Compassion

More and more research is suggesting that compassion is the antidote to what ails us as humans, both individually and on a larger societal level.  So, if the answer is simple (yet perhaps not so easy), how might we contribute to the healing of the world that has such a compassion-deficit at this time?

We must first acknowledge that as humans, we experience fear and pain, which open the door to suffering.  Whether the fear and pain are experienced physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and/or spiritually, they cannot be avoided.  It is part of the human condition.  Suffering, on the other hand, is something that can be avoided.  Suffering is a response – or choice – to the fear and pain.  The practice of compassion has been shown to trigger the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the happy hormone.  Any increase in happiness reduces the experience of suffering.

Next, we must consciously tap into our heart space and exercise our compassion muscles to keep them active and strong.  Therefore, below I provide intention-setting ideas to help support the cultivation of compassion in your own life, so that you can spread the happiness around.  I hope you will consider trying one!

  1. Practice a loving kindness meditation.  With the expanding research base around the health benefits of compassion, many sites offer loving kindness or compassion meditations.  Simply set an intention to establish a regular practice of finding yourself in a space of comfort and quiet and listen to one.  When listening at first, it might seem awkward or unnatural, especially when offering yourself compassion.  However, remember that it is a practice and, with time, the effects begin to show up in your everyday interactions.  Don’t give up!
  2. Soften judgment.  The natural human survival instinct creates judgment.  Therefore, it takes work to transform judgment into discernment.  Judgment grows from a perceived power differential.  It is unconscious and reactive.  Judgment is a reaction from fear, insecurity, jealousy or ignorance.  On the other hand, discernment grows from a conscious and more thoughtful garden, where the seeds of clear perception and insight grow.  The flowers that bloom guide us to distinguish what is appropriate and inappropriate, healthy and unhealthy and the choices we make are not only good for us, but often for the good of others.  Through the clear perception of discernment, we can make good choices without having to label ourselves as better (or worse) than anyone else.  So consider the next time you catch yourself making a judgment (He’s such a jerk!), reflecting on a time when you too may have acted in a similar manner.  Sit with the experience and see if you are able to identify why you acted that way.  Was it out of fear or insecurity?  Or something else?  The more conscious you can make the unconscious motivations behind our judgments, the softer they become, opening the doors wide to compassion for others that are suffering, as well as for ourselves.
  3. Listen deeply.  Listening to others deeply is a tool that opens the gate to compassion.  When you allow someone to be fully heard, without interrupting or planning a response, you create a sacred space for them to truly witness themselves, perhaps for the first time.  Most of us, when engaging with others, allow our unconscious, reactive judgment (see above) lead us in the conversation, jumping to a solution to fix what ails the other; however, that simply implies that something is broken (or even that they are broken), often putting them on the defensive and perhaps even shutting down the conversation.  When we listen deeply, we begin to see ourselves in the other, recognizing the common pain we all experience as humans.  When we are able to hear our common humanity, with all of its limitations, we are more easily able to lean into the softness of compassion.  Consider trying this the next time a friend calls and is suffering.  Challenge yourself to simply sit with the suffering and perhaps acknowledge the pain by saying something like “Wow, that sounds really painful.” without offering any fixes and watch what unfolds.
  4. Heal your trauma.  As the majority of the world has experienced trauma of some sort or another, most of us have some work to do in this area.  Be open to the idea of allowing your warrior part to guide you on the journey to discover the parts of yourself that have been shut down or out, allowing them to have some conscious air time to express their need to feel connected.  Until we heal our own internal conflicts from our past traumas, we are likely to hurt others, even if unconsciously or unintentionally.  This work can be hard, yet amazingly beautiful.  So if you might want some support, perhaps consider reaching out to a spiritual or life coach or therapist.  Through this work, we invite compassion for those parts of ourselves that carry the burden of our past traumas, like we would offer compassion to another.
  5. Practice radical self-care.  So many of us were taught that if we take care of ourselves first or prioritize our needs over others, we are selfish.  I’m here to debunk that myth!  It is my experience that most of us don’t even know what are needs are because we are in a mind set of taking care of the needs of others.  What happens if we don’t identify our needs and focus instead only on the needs of others?  We become exhausted, irritable, anxious or shut-down.  We have a responsibility to take care of ourselves first if we truly want to take care of others.  When we experience powerful negative emotions, it is typically a sign that our needs are not being honored.  Therefore, I recommend exploring and identifying your needs as the first radical self-care step.  Or perhaps consider looking up the definitions of selfish and self-care to gain a better awareness of the differences.  When you are able to understand that you can be thoughtful of others AND prioritize your needs first, you are paving the road for compassion to replace fear in your heart!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Build Courage This Spring

The fear that this pandemic has created is palpable.  It is impacting all of us in some way.  It is tapping into our primal sense of survival and bringing up stuff we thought was resolved long ago, but was perhaps simply hidden from view.  Well as the days begin to grow longer, the light and warmth of the spring invite us to move through the darkness, face our fears and step into the light.

But how do we gather the courage to do so?

Below I provide intention-setting ideas on how to exercise our courage muscle (think your heart) in a healthy way to reduce the control fear has on your life, inviting in more confidence, joy and peace.  I hope you will consider trying one!

  1. Give fear a voice.  Remember when you were little and you were afraid that there were monsters under the bed or in the closet?  Well, they were scary because we couldn’t see them.  So, consider writing your fears down, giving them a name such as “failure”, “success”, “death”, “rejection”, “abandonment”, “vulnerability”, “dependence”, “emotions”, whatever it might be that stops you cold or wakes you up in the middle of the night.  Simply by identifying the fear with a name shines a light on it, taking it out of the dark and zapping it of some of its strength to hold you back from living your life more fully in the present moment.
  2. Observe fear.  When we can sit with our fear for a few minutes, get curious about it.  Perhaps pose one or more of the 5 Ws and H questions (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How) to this fear.  For example, perhaps ask it “Who gave you to me?, What do you want to tell me?, Where was I when I first remember recognizing you? Why might I need you? and/or How did you protect me in the past?”.  Fear is a normal, natural part of being a human and it does serve and protect.  It is when it leads our life that it hinders our ability to experience confidence and joy, which are also normal, natural parts of being human.  The more you are able to befriend your fear, again the less dominant it will be.
  3. Share.  Another powerful way to reduce the impact of fear is to share your fear with another person, whether it is a friend or an objective counselor.  By verbalizing your fear to another, you take back some of your power that it has taken from you because you now can call it out – it can no longer hide in the dark.  It reduces any shame that might be present from experiencing fear, because it challenges the belief that there must be something wrong with us if we have this fear.  Remember, fear is a normal, natural part of being human.
  4. Visualize.  Another tool to reduce the amount of power fear has in our lives is to visualize what it might look like to be fearless in the face of your fear.  To support your visualization efforts, consider creating a vision board that will contain images and words that challenge your fear, that reflect your inner courage and strength to face your fear.  Once created, remember to place your vision board somewhere you can see it everyday.  I keep mine by my vanity, so I see it each morning when brushing my teeth!
  5. Take action.  One of the most powerful antidotes to fear is acting in the face of fear, to slay the dragon so to speak.  Now the action does not need to be something big, a small step forward is enough to exercise the courage muscle, giving it new found strength to take another small step.  So, if you are not sure where to start, go back up to the intention-setting ideas above, and pick one to try out.  Our fears may not ever be completely extinguished, yet, when we can look deeply at them, we take back our power and fear will no longer run the show from the shadows.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!